No player should be allowed to play in any age group for more than two years

BCCI invests in youngsters like very few organisations do. It organises two crucial tournaments — under-16 and under-19, and some associations conduct under-14 and under-12 tournaments as well.

These tournaments are instrumental in nurturing youngsters. However, one menace that infests these tournaments is the fudging of age by players.

A decade ago, an instance came to light when most of the boys in a State team had given 1st September as their birthday.

The reason: 1st September is the cut-off date for the BCCI tournaments.

The team was known as the team of uncles, but things remain the same ten years later.

A look at the India under-19 team list will reveal that some players haven’t grown in age at all! The BCCI do conduct medical tests, but there are enough loopholes to exploit and misuse the system.

For the 2012 World Cup, the original captain practised with the team at the NCA for a month but when asked to submit the passport as per the ICC norms, he was found overage. Shouldn’t such cheating be dealt with strictly? This is as bad as match-fixing. The BCCI ought to have suspended the boy from representing his State for a minimum of two years, but the vote politics of BCCI saved him from any punishment whatsoever!

Ideal rule

In fact, he was immediately chosen for the Ranji Trophy! The ideal rule should be that no player be allowed to play in any age group for more than two years and players not registered with a government-recognised school should not be eligible to play in the BCCI tournaments. BCCI spends lakhs of rupees in conducting the junior tournaments in good will.

Why spend so much on cheaters? Decades ago, the system comprised of inter-state school matches. Gavaskar, Solkar, Amarnath brothers, Ghavri, Brijesh Patel would proudly represent their schools. Now, most of the boys playing in age-group tournaments don’t go to school and this encourages them to take advantage of the loopholes.

The advantage of inter-school matches was that a school could be banned if it plays over-age boys and hence a monitoring system was in place. In the existing system, it is the State associations that pick the players and they conveniently ignore other factors if a player is performing well.

And what is the use of under-25 tournaments?

Good players anyway play for Ranji sides. The earlier age-groupings of under-15, 17, 19 and 22 tournaments should be reintroduced. It churned out genuinely talented players. Now that the BCCI has cut down one junior tournament, 16-year-olds have to compete with the 18-year-olds.

When BCCI can be so strict about matters like match-fixing, how is this ethically different?

What sort of players are we nurturing for the National side if we encourage such illicit practices from adolescence itself? Cricketers have to realise that cricket administration is a different ball game and requires different set of skills.

That they were heroes for the nation doesn’t seem to matter. People like Polly Umrigar, Ghulam Ahmed, Brijesh Patel were excellent administrators as well.

Moreover, now that we have the availability of information technology and qualified sports management personnel, it is easier to run the administration professionally. Cricketers should capitalise on these resources and try to reach the voters more efficiently.